God doesn’t owe us anything (Job 41:11). There is nothing within us or outside us that merits or warrants His acting favorably toward us (cf. Jer.17:9). The only sense in which God has obligated Himself to us is to fulfill the promises He has previously declared He will fulfill (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4). The righteous and holy consistency of His character demands nothing more and nothing less. Looking at life from this perspective enables us to perceive the outworking of divine grace in unexpected places.
Today’s taste of Torah encourages us to embrace hope by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past while simultaneously looking forward to His promises for the future. Our text is Deuteronomy 1:20-21, 26, 29-33. These verses deal with Israel’s Disobedience at Kadesh-barnea. It reads: 20 I said to you: “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up and take possession of it as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” 26 But you were not willing to go up, rebelling against the command of the Lord your God. 29 So I said to you: “Don’t be terrified or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw Him do for you in Egypt. 31 And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. 32 But in spite of this you did not trust the Lord your God, 33 who went before you on the journey to seek out a place for you to camp. He went in the fire by night and in the cloud by day to guide you on the road you were to travel.”
Basically what we have here is a presentation of a faithful God demanding a faithful people. Yahweh had been faithful in bringing the nation from Sinai to her present location, and by giving her victory over her Transjordanian enemies. He also reminded the people of the future blessings they could anticipate because what God had done in the past He was fully capable of doing in the future. God’s great desire for His covenant people had been that they possess what He had promised them. Unfortunately however this first post-Exodus generation would not do that because of fearful unbelief.
This sin of failing to enter the land because of unbelief was not just an underestimating of God’s power. In verse 27 of Deuteronomy 1, the Israelites blamed Yahweh for their predicament and totally maligned His character by claiming that He hated them and wanted to use the Amorites to kill them. This grossly distorted thinking was the antithesis of God’s elective covenant love. In fact such delusion caused God’s goodness to be doubted, His Word to be denied, and His will to be disobeyed.
Even though we’ve all tasted the goodness of God on innumerable occasions, and even though we’re all continually doing better than we deserve, you and I still face the temptation of judging God’s motives on the basis of circumstances. In the dark night of our soul, we may be prone to wonder if the LORD hates us when we experience sickness, shortages, and other sufferings. Our thinking can become distorted and our spirit paralyzed by fear. We can become convinced God is against us, even setting us up for failure despite His clearly, repeatedly, and trans-dispensationally saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (cf. Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; 1 Chron. 28:20; Ps. 37:28; 94;14; Isa. 41:17; 42:16; w/Heb. 13:5). This is why the author of Hebrews challenged all of us to maintain a proper focus as we run the race of life; remembering that Messiah Himself ran this same race victoriously: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured an execution stake and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Heb. 12:1-2).” That’s the crux of what it looks like to remember to remember.